Two of the largest solar power research institutes, the Institute of Electrical Engineering (IEE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the American National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), with the express purpose of forwarding international research and technological development of next-generation photovoltaic electricity generation capabilities.
The new agreement was signed by IEE Director-General Xiao Liye and NREL Director Dan E. Arvizu, and it stipulates that the two institutions will work together in the field of photovoltaic battery and component testing and research, at a new facility, to be built at the IEE, in China. Researchers from both countries will work at the new center, and regular exchange visits will take place a few times per year.
Sharing obtained information is one of the top priorities of the document, as both parties agree that this is the simplest way of forwarding scientific research. As prototypes are developed, the technology will also be shared equally between the two laboratories, thus making the whole development and testing stages much shorter. Chinese officials say that the signing of the deal represents a "headway" in the relations between the two countries, and that they expect even more cooperation, in the field of solar research.
Over the past few years, the IEE focused its efforts on such areas as electrical technology, modern electric vehicle technology, applicable superconductor technology, and biomedical engineering, providing these areas of research with significant innovations that helped further the progress of solar energy technology substantially.
On the other hand, NREL conducts pioneering work in solar energy, wind energy, biomass energy, geothermal energy, hydrogen fuel, and fuel cells, offering the perfect complementary specialization to the IEE, in terms of the expertise it can bring to the table.
Because of its heavy reliance on fossil fuel, China repeatedly expressed its willingness to switch to more environmental-friendly energy sources, if the price tag associated with such a step was affordable. There is no hope for the Asian nation to renounce coal – its main power source – over the next couple of decades, but supplementing a part of the national power grid with renewable energy is a very appealing prospect for Beijing.